Review: Tag

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: A gang of friends who’ve spent each May for the last thirty-five years playing tag, team-up to take down the game’s undisputed champion, who intends to retire from the game after he gets married.

REVIEW: Believe it or not, TAG is based on a true(ish) story. It’s such an unbelievably silly premise that I suppose it had to be true, as if you didn’t actually have real footage of the guys themselves indulging in the credits, you might never grant this the leeway it needs to be accepted as the legitimate plot of a big-budget studio comedy. Watching forty-something-year-old actors running around trying to tag each other might sound like a recipe for disaster, but oddly enough, the concept makes the movie feel kinda fresh and innovative, with each member of the ensemble cast contributing some of their best work in years. It all adds up to a highly likable comedy with some unexpectedly sweet moments.

In some ways, TAG is like the modern version of a CANNONBALL RUN movie, mixing action with saucy humor, delivered with enough of a wink and smile that you know everyone involved is having a grand ol’ time. First-time director Jeff Tomsic makes an impressive debut, doing a good job juggling the occasional tonal shifts, although some forays into dark humor involving waterboarding and miscarriages might rub some more sensitive viewers the wrong way. In that regard, this one handily earns its R-rating.

It helps that the ensemble cast is pitch perfect. Had they only cast typical comic actors as the leads, it might have been too silly. Instead, they mix guys mostly known from comedy (Ed Helms and Hannibal Buress) with people like Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, and Jake Johnson, who’ve shown chops in both comedy and drama, and even a nice piece of against-type casting with Jeremy Renner, in his first comic vehicle since NATIONAL LAMPOON’S SENIOR TRIP.

The movie starts off with the perfect little teaser hook, showing Helms, as arguably the most committed player, infiltrating a Fortune 500 company owned by Hamm by actually getting a job as a janitor, just so he can tag him during a Wall Street Journal interview. The reporter (Annabelle Wallis) finds her curiosity piqued by the game and follows them cross-country as they reunite their old gang, including perennial slacker Johnson (with a great cameo by Brian Dennehy as his stoner dad) and the neurotic Buress. Helms’s wife is played by Fisher as the most competitive player of all, despite being barred from the game thanks to their childhood rules (NO GIRLS!), while Rashida Jones and Leslie Bibb are around as some significant others who get roped-in to the madness.

While I’ve complained about the diminishing quality of some of the vehicles Ed Helms has gotten stuck with lately, TAG is a major step in the right direction. While still playing a familiarly obsessive character, there’s some nuance and heart to his role, and in a nice touch, he’s given the perfect on-screen spouse to play off of, with Fisher seemingly paying tribute to her classic turn in WEDDING CRASHERS. Jon Hamm’s always shown a flair for comedy, and he has a blast as arguably the most straight-laced of the gang, while Buress maybe gets short-changed a bit, in that he’s the only one without a real arc. Even Johnson’s stoner gets a love interest to flesh him out.

Of them all, I think Renner is the funniest, with him clearly having a ball as the most macho player, who turns each game into a SHERLOCK HOLMES style game of strategy and combat, with Bibb as his similarly competitive soon-to-be spouse. It’s nice that everyone’s shown to be game, with no one serving as a wet blanket to spoil the fun. Even Wallis’s straight-laced report gets in on it a bit, and in a wholly unexpected, atypical twist, she’s not paired-up with one of the guys in a tacked-on romantic subplot.

Given the dearth of big-screen comedies, it’s nice to see a movie like TAG, that really delivers, and it played beautifully to the packed preview audience I saw it with. If any movie this summer deserves to be a sleeper, word-of-mouth hit, this is the one.




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.